September 16, 2016
I want to share Rav Yochanan Zweig's innovative answer to a question we posed during this week's Women's Parsha Shiur. Definitely something to think about.
Have a great Shabbos and kesiva v'chasima tova!
This week's parsha ends with a short retelling of the story of Amalek attacking Bnei Yisroel after leaving Mitzrayim, and the exhortation that we never forget what they did to us. Rashi (ad loc) explains that the word "korcha - attacked you" has its roots in the Hebrew word "kor" which means cool. In other words, they cooled off the Jewish people. Meaning, until now the other nations were afraid of the Jewish people and wouldn't fight them, but when Amalek came and attacked them it "cooled them off" and showed the other nations that it was possible to fight Bnei Yisroel.
Rashi continues with the following analogy: There was a bath that was scalding hot, to the point that it was unusable. One fellow came along, jumped in to the bath, and got severely burned. However, since he had bathed in it, he succeeded in cooling it sufficiently to be usable for others. So too, Amalek attacked us and cooled us to the point where other nations were now able to conceive of the idea that they too could fight us.
Superficially, this sounds like an acceptable way of looking at what Amalek achieved. But if we probe just a bit deeper we begin to see how perplexing the logic behind this analogy really is. Amalek came and fought with Bnei Yisroel and Amalek was decimated. Wouldn't their epic failure serve as an incredible statement and proof of the power of Bnei Yisroel? In fact, logically this story seems to convey quite the opposite - that the Jewish people are absolutely not to be messed with. Amalek's defeat literally showcased the power and might of the Jewish people! What can Rashi possibly mean that "they cooled us off?"
When Bnei Yisroel left Mitzrayim they were supposed to get the Torah and go right into Eretz Yisroel and begin the era of messianic times with Moshe as King Moshiach. The splitting of the Red Sea, according to Chazal, reverberated across the world to the point that everyone was aware of it. The Jewish people were supposed to lead a revolution against idol worship and fulfill Avraham's vision of monotheism for the world. We were supposed to bring everyone back to Hashem. When we left Mitzrayim, we were on an unstoppable mission of bringing the world to its final resolution.
Then Amalek came and made an incredible statement. They attacked knowing that they would be annihilated - which was EXACTLY their point. Their startling statement was: This world is not worth living in if it is to be the world of the Jewish people - we would prefer to die than live in a world where G-d is revealed and relevant. This is a powerful statement (and the obvious precursor to suicide murderers), and resembles those who perform self-immolation to bring attention to their cause; suicides which are powerful arguments against the status quo. Amalek succeeded in saying that there is an alternative to living in this world according to the vision of the Jewish people.
What Rashi means that "they cooled us off" is that other nations will now contemplate whether or not our vision is right for them. Once Amalek attacked, we no longer had the overwhelming singular truth of our world vision because Amalek succeeded in placing doubt in other people's minds. Even though they lost terribly, they succeeded in raising the question as to whether or not this world is worth living in if it is a world according to the Jewish vision. They gave credence to other nations; allowing them to consider fighting us and our vision for the world. This was a devastating loss of credibility - something we can never forgive.